Author: ccc

Testing – not lockdowns – may explain why some countries handle Covid-19 better

This is a post by a Guest Author
Disclaimer: The author’s views are entirely his or her own, and don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of the Consumer Choice Center.


There are ongoing debates about who has been better handling the Covid-19 pandemic: testing or lockdown?

Covid-19

With so many people confined to their homes, passions are running high, and there are ongoing debates about who has been better handling the Covid-19 pandemic. So much so that it feels like comparing and contrasting countries and their trajectories has become sort of a global pastime.

Nearly all developed countries (and others) have put their populations under severe lockdowns and emphasized social distancing as the silver bullet against the spread of the virus. Sweden, however, has recently been castigated for failing to put its population under a lockdown like every other country, especially other Nordic countries which it is compared and contrasted against. 

The problem is that it is quite hard to compare the performance of two randomly selected countries. For instance, on every level Norway seems to be doing much better than Sweden. That said, one can always find a bunch of other countries that are doing much worse despite having been under lockdown for some time.

It should be noted that Sweden has made some questionable decisions, regardless of social distancing. It failed to ramp up testing with increasing cases around March 20, and it only closed its nursing homes for visits in early April.

But aren’t lockdowns clearly working? 

Many people have still argued that lockdowns are clearly working because the epidemic has slowed shortly after their imposition. However, it is important that we are careful when inferring that lockdowns were responsible for the decline. There may be a correlation between the two, but as everyone should know, correlation does not necessarily mean causation, and there may be other intervening variables. It is vital that we not jump to conclusions too fast. While many people believe, and many epidemiological models assume, that unchecked epidemics just grow exponentially until more than half of the population gets infected, the evidence for Covid-19 increasingly suggests otherwise. 

Several research papers (e.g. here and here) argued that the dynamics of the Covid-19 pandemic are well-described by exponential functions only at the early stage, after which so-called power-law functions are a much better fit. A detailed study of the outbreak in the initially hit communes in Lombardy also suggests that in each commune, it started slowly, then briefly became exponential and then slowed, all that before any significant intervention.

To help you better understand what the mathematical jargon above means and why it is so important, consider two simple functions, y=2x and y=x2. The first function is exponential and the second function is a power-law one. You will better see the crucial difference between them if they are plotted together.

If these functions were describing an epidemic, then the x-axis would mean rounds of transmission. In the beginning there is one infected person in both cases. Then, until the fifth round the functions seem to grow in at an almost similar speed but afterwards, they diverge dramatically.

When researchers talk about an epidemic growing first exponentially and then in accordance with a power law, they mean that the growth of the epidemic looks like the hybrid function (first, y=2x and y=x2 after round 5) below. Its growth clearly slows a lot after the fifth round.

Why could an epidemic grow exponentially, first, and then slow down on its own? Here, it is important to remember that real societies are complex. Instead of interacting with random people every now and then, people tend to form groups (or clusters, in scientific terminology) and live in local areas within which interactions are much more intense than outside of them. With obvious implications for infection transmission.

What probably changes at the early stage of the epidemic is that so-called superspreader events are much likelier. Such events, where single infected people spread the virus to scores, hundreds or even thousands of people, have clearly played an enormous role in Covid-19. It is enough to mention the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in South Korea, the tragic gathering of French catholics in Mulhouse and the first coronavirus-hit hospitals in Lombardy. At these events, infected people have an opportunity to spread the virus way beyond their clusters of interactions.

After the initial stage, when everyone becomes aware that the epidemic is in the community and significant events are cancelled, the infection may get increasingly isolated within clusters, first, grow slower and then start falling off. The available data is increasingly hinting at this process in play. In Italy, cases appear to have peaked on the day the national lockdown was announced. In the US, they appear to have peaked on March 20.  

Lockdowns could even be counterproductive

A more speculative but still plausible idea is that lockdowns could, in fact, not merely coincide with the slowing-down of Covid-19 without causing it but actually create more damage than they prevent.

Many people believe that if some social distancing (like closing bars or canceling events) is desirable than extreme social distancing like lockdowns that keeps most people at home most of the time must be even more beneficial. However, this potentially ignores two important facts about Covid-19 and viral diseases in general.

First, it is abundantly clear that Covid-19 overwhelmingly spreads in closed, often poorly ventilated spaces and through close contacts. Secondly, as Robin Hanson convincingly argued, there is a wealth of evidence that the severity of viral disease depends on the viral dose received. This means that if families are forced to stay at home together all the time, this may create perfect conditions for the virus to spread and especially cause severe disease.

The data from Google about actual social distancing patterns in several countries hit by Covid-19 shows that Italy, Spain and France have had by far the most extreme social distancing, and the UK was starting to catch up with them after its lockdown. Yet, these four countries have some of the highest fatality rates in the world per population and detected cases.    

Could testing explain things better?

A better way to try to make sense of the causation is to try to identify a bunch of countries that have something important in common. The most important thing in any epidemic is to minimize deaths, and there is a group of countries that seem to have far fewer deaths by population size, and per identified infections, than others. These countries include Iceland, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, Austria, and Norway. You can see how low their case fatality rates are compared to other countries with a lot of cases here (see the “death rates” column).

What makes those countries succeed in driving down deaths? One would actually be surprised to learn that none of these countries is, or was, under total lockdown. South Korea hasn’t even closed bars and restaurants. This shows that extreme social distancing measures are not necessarily the best explanation.

The real answer may largely lie in how many tests those countries have been doing compared to others. Testing may reduce fatality rates by giving public health responders valuable information and helping to isolate and quarantine those that carry the virus before they spread it to vulnerable groups like the elderly.

Iceland is the absolute champion at testing. It has already conducted 28,992 tests, which is more than 8% of its entire population. It also has the world’s lowest case fatality rate from Covid-19 at 0.38%. Iceland isn’t an anomaly, and using Iceland as an example isn’t cherry picking. Researchers Sinha, Sengupta and Ghosal showed that country death rates from Covid-19 are significantly correlated with the intensity of testing. They did not, however, control for the potential impact of lockdowns and other stringent social distancing measures.

Testing and outcomes by region

In addition to national data, one can also look at regional data where it is available and see if the testing/fatality relationship still holds. Italy has been publishing detailed regional statistics on Covid-19 starting from February 24. If we plot tests per confirmed cases in each region with reported fatalities per million inhabitants, we get the following picture:

The chart surprisingly shows us that Italy’s worst hit region isn’t Lombardy, and that it is actually the little-known Aosta Valley. We also see that there is a clear negative relationship between the intensity of testing and fatality rates. In fact, the former seems to explain more than half of the variation in the latter, and the regression coefficient is statistically significant (the p-value is 0.0003).

To conclude, it will take a long time and careful research to sort out why some countries and regions have gone through the Covid-19 pandemic much less damaged than others. That said, one thing seems to be increasingly clear. When the dust settles it will be clear that testing will be a significant factor, and that the importance of social distancing will be diminished. 

Guest Author: Daniil Gorbatenko


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Rokok Elektronik, Kesehatan, dan Kebebasan Individu

by Haikal Kurniawan

Rokok elektronik, atau yang akrab disebut vape, saat ini merupakan produk yang sedang mendunia, termasuk di tanah air. Di Indonesia sendiri, menurut laporan dari CNBC Indonesia, ada sekitar 1 juta pengguna vape pada tahun 2019 lalu (CNBC Indonesia, 2019).

Bisnis rokok elektronik di Indonesia juga mampu meraup pendapatan yang besar, hingga 200 miliar sampai 300 miliar setiap bulannya (Mix.co.id). Omset yang besar ini juga berdampak pada cukai yang tinggi, hingga 700 miliar rupiah per November 2019 (Waspada.co.id, 2019).

Banyaknya pengguna vape di Indonesia ini menimbulkan kontroversi. Tidak sedikit pihak yang menentang produk tersebut, dan meminta kepada pemerintah untuk segera melarang peredaran vape. Salah satu penentangan tersebut datang dari Komisi Nasional (Komnas) Pengendalian Tembakau.

Melalui manager komunikasinya, Nina Samidi, Komnas Pengendalian Tembakau menghimbau kepada pemerintah untuk menarik seluruh produk rokok elektronik yang beredar di pasar Indonesia. Selain itu, Badan Pengawas Obat dan Makanan (BPOM) menyatakan bahwa vape merupakan produk yang berbahaya. (Media Indonesia, 2019).

Namun, apakah anggapan ini merupakan sesuatu yang tepat? Mari kita lihat faktanya terlebih dahulu.

Berdasarkan laporan dari organisasi Asosiasi Paru-Paru Amerika (American Lung Association), rokok konvensional, ketika dibakar, menghasilkan lebih dari 7.000 zat kimia. Dari 7.000 zat kimia tersebut, 69 diantaranya telah diidentifikasi sebagai penyebab kanker (American Lung Association, 2019).

Sementara, dua bahan yang paling umum yang digunakan oleh dalam bahan cair vape adalah propylene glycol (PG) dan vegetable glycerin (VG), yang digunakan untuk membuat uap dan perasa. Bahan-bahan ini merupakan sesuatu yang terbukti aman dan merupakan bahan yang umum digunakan di berbagai produk makanan dan minuman seperti soda, es krim, dan produk-produk berbahan dasar susu (Food and Drugs Administration, 2019).

Organisasi pemerhati kesehatan asal Britania Raya misalnya, Public Health England, pada tahun 2015 menyatakan bahwa rokok elektronik 95% lebih aman dibandingkan dengan rokok tembakau konvensional (Public Health England, 2015).  Hal yang sama juga dinyatakan oleh Kementerian Kesehatan New Zealand dan Kanada.

Keduanya menyatakan bahwa rokok elektronik jauh lebih aman daripada rokok konvensional, dan merupakan salah satu solusi terbaik untuk membantu perokok untuk berhenti merokok. Kementerian Kesehatan Kanada misalnya, menyatakan bahwa rokok elektronik jauh lebih aman daripada rokok tembakau konvensional, karena tidak melalui proses pembakaran yang mengeluarkan zat-zat berbahaya yang membuat kanker (Health Canada, 2018).

Lantas bagaimana dengan berbagai kasus kematian yang terjadi di berbagai tempat karena penggunaan vape. Bukankah hal tersebut merupakan bukti bahwa rokok elektronik merupakan sesuatu yang berbahaya?

Di Amerika Serikat misalnya, per Februari 2020, lembaga kesehatan Pemerintah Amerika, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mencatat setidaknya ada 2.800 kasus orang-orang yang dibawa ke rumah sakit karena penggunaan rokok elektronik (CDC, 2020). Adanya kasus tersebut juga merupakan penyebab utama Presiden Donald Trump mengeluarkan peraturan pelarangan produk vape yang memiliki rasa selain menthol dan original, pada bulan Januari 2020 lalu.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Nový vyhledávač informací pro editaci genomu

Nástroj shrnuje právní předpisy pro editaci genomu v oblasti zemědělství, medicíny a tzv. gene drives technologie, která se zaměřuje na boj proti škůdcům.

Nedávno spatřil světlo světa ucelený zdroj informací o editaci genomu – „The Global Gene Editing Regulation Tracker and Index“.

Jde o interaktivní nástroj, který umožňuje přehledně sledovat, jak je v jednotlivých částech světa právně upravena editace genomu a do jaké míry jsou země v tomto směru konzervativní. Tento nástroj vytvořila nezisková organizace „Genetic Literacy Project (GLP)” ve spolupráci s organizací „Consumer Choice Center“.

Nový nástroj shrnuje právní předpisy pro editaci genomu v oblasti zemědělství, medicíny a tzv. gene drives technologie, která se zaměřuje na boj proti škůdcům (např. projekty na eliminaci komárů nebo myší a potkanů). O technikách „gene drives“ jsme mj. psali v  článku „Gene drives, ano či ne?“.

Současně platforma poskytuje přehled, kdy právní předpisy vznikaly, a ukazuje, na kterých produktech a terapeutických metodách státy pracují.

Jelikož se GLP snaží uživatelům poskytnout komplexní informaci, u jednotlivých zemí lze nalézt postoje nevládních organizací, vědců i kritiků k editaci genomu.

Tyto informace snadno napoví, zda je v dané zemi vývoj moderních technologií podporován nebo spíše upozaďován.

Nový vyhledávač informací pro editaci genomu můžete vyzkoušet ZDE.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Covid-19 will help us identify which regulations are holding back productivity and innovation

At a time like this, those of us who believe in free markets and limited government face challenges in justifying adherence to those principles. It is hard to argue against governments doing “whatever it takes” to combat the spread of the disease and save lives and livelihoods. In fact, as my colleague Christopher Snowdon set out in the Daily Telegraph last week, there is no need to make such arguments. There no inconsistency insupporting individual freedoms in normal times and acceptingcoercive measures by the state in a public health emergency.

Similarly, the massive expansion of the state comprised in the chancellor’s rescue package is broadly welcome for giving people the assurance they need that their homes, incomes and businesses will have some protection in highly unusual circumstances. However, there are many areas where reductions in government intervention should be urgently pursued. 

The New York Times reported that a biotech lab had carried out tests and identified cases of Covid-19 in the Seattle area, well before it was known that the virus had taken hold in the United States. The lab did not have the correct accreditations for this activity from the FDA and was ordered to cease testing. The regulators in the US have since relaxed their position on this, but the question must surely be asked, what was the purpose of the restriction in the first place and how can it be right that it applied so strictly that it actively worked against important research at a vital time?

Europe is also suffering under the burden of pointless bureaucracy in healthcare: the Consumer Choice Center has highlighted that 20 countries in Europe don’t allow online ordering of prescription medicines and 18 require even non-prescription medicines like paracetamol to be sold in pharmacies only. Thankfully the UK is not in the guilty groupof countries in either case, but we still have many regulations that are holding people back from getting the support that they need.

Some steps in that direction are being taken here. The Coronavirus Bill, published yesterday, gives the government emergency powers, but it also suspends various regulations, like the ban on recently retired doctors from returning to work more than 16 hours per week. It reduces the administration tasks and paperwork that health and care workers have to carry out – surely welcome at any time and not something that should take a global crisis to enact.

The Department for Housing Communities and Local Government has announced that planning rules will be relaxed so that pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways. These are the kind of rules that inspired the hashtag #NeverNeeded, urging Twitter users to identify regulations that are holding back efforts to counter the virus and were surely never needed in the first place. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that people and organisations should not feel restricted from doing what they need to do to help people because of data protection laws. This is an example of a regulation (the GDPR) that has been shown to be so badly formulated and poorly understood that people are not able to make decisions with certainty as to what is permitted without an ad hoc intervention from the secretary of state.

In my recent paper for the IEA, Rules Britannia, I noted that regulations are often put in place based on quite dubious cost/benefit analysis, and then not reviewed to see if they actually achieved their objective. The way in which regulations have been relaxed as a matter of urgency by governments around the world, in some cases after they have caused serious barriers in battling the spread of the virus, has highlighted this in stark terms. This is also why calls to impose ‘emergency legislation to remove “morally unacceptable” conspiracy theories’ from social media platforms should be resisted. Misinformation at this is time is deeply damaging, but a perception that government is controlling the media to hide things from citizens could be even worse. Knee jerk responses that unnecessarily curtail freedoms run the risk of being counterproductive, and such measures have a history of being be retained long after their original purpose has been forgotten.

When this public health emergency is over, we will need all of the productive capacity and innovation that free markets can provide to ensure that the economy recovers and there are jobs for people to go back to. Wealth is the strongest predictor of health in a society and free economies grow the fastest. If dealing with Covid-19 allows us to identify regulations that are holding back productivity and innovation in healthcare and across the economy as a whole we must not waste the opportunity to re-examine whether they were in fact ever needed.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Apakah Perlindungan Hak Kekayaan Intelektual di Bidang Medis Menguntungkan Konsumen?

Penulis Haikal Kurniawan – Usia harapan hidup dunia kian naik dari tahun ke tahun. Pada tahun 2020, diprediksi ada lebih banyak penduduk dunia yang berusia di atas 64 tahun daripada anak-anak di bawah usia 5 tahun (Roeder, 2019). Hal ini tentu merupakan suatu capaian yang mengagumkan, dan sangat perlu untuk diapresiasi.

Salah satu hal yang memainkan peran besar atas hal tersebut adalah inovasi dan perkembangan sains dan teknologi di bidang medis. Berbagai kemajuan di bidang tersebut telah membantu umat manusia untuk memiliki usia jauh lebih panjang daripada leluhur mereka yang hidup di masa lalu.

Konsumen tentu merupakan pihak yang paling diuntungkan dari perkembangan tersebut. Melalui berbagai inovasi, konsumen diberikan berbagai macam pilihan untuk memilih obat-obatan medis yang lebih beragam dan ampuh untuk mengatasi berbagai penyakit.

Lantas, apakah perlindungan Hak Kekayaan Intelektual memiliki kaitan erat perkembangan sains dan teknologi tersebut?

*****

Hak Kekayaan Intelektual, atau HAKI, merupakan salah satu hak yang diakui secara global oleh dunia internasional. Deklarasi Universal Hak Asasi Manusia (DUHAM), Pasal 27 UDHR, menyatakan dengan eksplisit bahwa “Setiap manusia memiliki hak untuk mendapatkan perlindungan, baik secara moral, maupun kepentingan material, yang dihasilkan dari hasil karya saintifik, literatur, maupun seni yang dibuatnya.”

Perlindungan HAKI merupakan salah satu instrumen yang dibuat untuk melindungi para inovator dan seniman atas hasil jerih payah mereka. Tanpa adanya perlindungan terhadap HAKI, tentu mustahil para inovator dan seniman yang sudah bekerja keras membuat karya tertentu untuk menikmati hasil kreatifitas yang mereka buat. Orang-orang lain, yang tidak melakukan apa-apa, akan dengan mudah mengkopi dan membajak hasil karya tersebut untuk keuntungan mereka sendiri.

Hal yang sama juga berlaku untuk inovasi di bidang teknologi kedokteran, pangan, dan kesehatan. Satu hal yang memiliki peran sangat besar untuk mendorong perkembangan tersebut adalah para investor yang menginvestasikan dana mereka untuk riset dan penelitian.

Jumlah dana yang diinvestasikan tersebut tidaklah kecil. Profesor dari Fakultas Kesehatan Universitas Tufts, Joseph Dimasi, dalam jurnalnya yang berjudul “Innovation in the pharmaceutical industry: New estimates of R&D costs” memberi estimasi, agar sebuah obat bisa dipakai oleh pasien dari nol, dibutuhkan waktu riset selama 12,5 tahun dan dana sebesar 2,8 milyar Dollar Amerika, atau lebih dari 35 triliun rupiah (DiMasi, 2016).

Dana tersebut tentu bukan jumlah yang sedikit. Tanpa adanya perlindungan terhadap HAKI, tentu insentif para investor untuk menginvestasikan uang yang mereka miliki menjadi berkurang, dan bahkan hilang. Hal tersebut tentu akan sangat merugikan banyak pihak, terutama konsumen yang membutuhkan obat-obatan medis terbaru, karena riset dan penelitian menjadi terhambat.

Akan tetapi, bukankah HAKI di bidang medis akan mendorong perilaku rakus yang dilakukan oleh berbagai perusahaan farmasi demi keuntungan sebesar-besarnya?

Memang, kerakusan perusahaan farmasi demi meraih keuntungan sebesar-besarnya merupakan karikatur yang kerap digambarkan oleh para aktivis dan para politisi yang memiliki haluan kiri.

Namun, kenyataannya tidaklah demikian. Perusahaan farmasi asal Britania Raya GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) misalnya, memberlakukan kebijakan pemotongan harga obat yang mereka jual di negara-negara berkembang sebesar 25% dari dengan harga di negara-negara maju. Selain itu, perusahaan farmasi asal Swiss, Novartis, sejak tahun 2011, telah mendistribusikan lebih dari 850 juta obat anti malaria ke lebih dari 60 negara dengan jumlah penderita malaria tertinggi, tanpa mengambil profit sama sekali (Medicine for Malaria Venture, 2019).

Lantas, bila demikian, bagaimana kita dapat mengatasi biaya obat-obatan medis yang tinggi?

Cara untuk mengatasi hal tersebut bukanlah dengan menghapus HAKI, karena hal tersebut akan menghilangkan insentif yang sangat dibutuhkan untuk mendorong kemajuan di bidang medis. Solusi yang paling efisien untuk menurunkan harga obat-obatan agar terjangkau adalah menghapuskan berbagai kebijakan pemerintah yang mendorong kenaikan harga tersebut, diantaranya adalah tarif impor dan izin birokrasi yang rumit.

Tarif impor untuk produk obat-obatan medis tentu akan mendorong kenaikan harga barang tersebut di pasar, dimana yang paling dirugikan adalah masyarakat kelas menengah ke bawah. Nepal misalnya, memberlakukan kebijakan tarif impor untuk produk medis sebesar 14,7%. Tarif impor untuk obat-obatan medis di Indonesia sendiri adalah 4,3% (IDN Times, 2019).

Izin yang rumit dan berbelit juga merupakan hal yang tentu sangat menghambat perkembangan dan membuat biaya obat menjadi meningkat. Berdasarkan laporan Tempo misalnya, Menteri Kesehatan, Terawan Agus Purwanto, menyatakan bahwa izin peredaran obat baru di Indonesia bisa memakan waktu hingga berbulan-bulan, ia berjanji akan mengatasi persoalan tersebut (Tempo, 2020).

HAKI di bidang medis merupakan hal yang patut untuk dijaga demi mendorong perkembangan sains dan teknologi di bidang medis, yang tentunya akan membawa manfaat besar bagi umat manusia. Pemerintah dalam hal ini seharusnya menjadi pihak yang menjaga hak tersebut, bukan menjadi aktor yang mempersulit inovasi melalui berbagai regulasi ketat yang nantinya akan merugikan masyarakat.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Coronavirus won’t stop Consumer Choice!

The last weeks were definitely crazy for us. After some great policy victories in Brazil and Canada we published two more indices and now find ourselves as an international consumer organization in the midst of the Coronavirus hysteria. Let me share what we have been up to in the last four weeks:

On the road: Washigton, DC!

Yael and I went to Washington DC and met the Federal Communications Commission’s Commissioner Brendan Carr to discuss 5G, NetNeutrality, and #consumerchoice.

The FCC has been recently doing many positive things towards more choice for consumers and showed us its open doors for consumer involvement.

On a diet: Good that the FCC is very close to a stellar donut shop near the DC waterfront


Event on Vaping: Is Nicotine really a Public Health Enemy?

The Consumer Choice Center hosted a panel discussion at Students For Liberty’s LibertyCon 2020 in Madrid. Our Senior Policy Analyst Bill Wirtz joined me to debunk some urban legends on vaping.


CCC at LibertyCon promoting consumer choice!

Last weekend, the Consumer Choice Center was in Madrid attending LibertyCon. It was an amazing opportunity to talk about freedom and choice directly to consumers from all around the world.

Fabio received in our booth hundreds of people, from students, sponsors to speakers interested in finding out more about consumer issues and consumer choice!


On Science: Greenpeace vs. Science – New pesticides report is misleading consumers

A new report by Unearthed — Greenpeace’s “investigative journalism” platform — claims that a large chunk of pesticides sold to farmers are “highly hazardous”.

Their claims are highly misleading and outright wrong, and can have potentially life-threatening consequences.


On Food: Gene Editing Regulation Index

Food could be so much cheaper and better in Europe if the EU would allow novel breeding techniques such as gene editing for plants.

The Gene-Editing Index produced by the Genetic Literacy Project and us shows which countries currently lead the way in offering consumers the future of agriculture.


On Cannabis: Cannabis Europe Event

It’s always hard to get the 2-meter-something of Bill in one picture but this shot shows him in Madrid at Cannabis Europe, discussing European and global efforts towards medical and recreational use of #cannabis.

Our North American colleague David was published in Canada’s Financial Post about commercial cannabis consumption, a topic we are very excited to be working on moving forward.


On the London School of Economics (LSE) beef ban:

Our European Affairs Associate Maria wrote about why banning beef on campus won’t help save the planet.

Nannying students is easy; encouraging them to become responsible consumers mindful of the importance of their freedom to choose is harder. 


On Air: Consumer Choice Radio

Our two usually very harmonious radio hosts David and Yael showed some rifts on the airwaves when discussing probably the most controversial debate after sports: Are you allowed to recline your seat on short flights?

See how this pans out on our YouTube Channel.


On the Mountain: Cannabis Conclave Video

Earlier this year we hosted our annual Cannabis Conclave in the beautiful mountains in Davos, Switzerland. An amazing event that we have mentioned many times.

Thanks to our friends at the Canadian Securities Exchange you can also watch a longer video of our Davos Cannabis Conclave. Enjoy!


On Rail: Europe’s Railway Stations

Europe’s Railway Stations – And the winner has been choo-choo-chosen! Our first ever European Railway Index kept many news busy across the continent. We got over 600 media hits in February alone covering the sister index of the European Airport Index. Proud winners of this year are London St. Pancras, Zurich Main Station, and Leipzig Main Station. Stay tuned for more consumer indexes coming your way!


Growing our team

On the other side of the world: Welcome our new Indonesian Policy Fellow Haikal who already published several articles on some of our core issues such as innovation in medicine and harm reduction.


Onwards: While the measures trying to contain the Coronavirus might slow down some of our in person activities and conferences such as meetings of the Innovation, Intellectual Property, and Brands Interest Group, we are committed to continue our battle for consumer choice through media and online!

Stay tuned for a much more entertaining newsletter by our new colleague Bia in April.

In the meantime please consider joining us as a card-carrying and dues paying member of the CCC – We need your support to fight for YOUR right to choose!


Fred Roeder

Das sind die besten Bahnhöfe in Europa

Der „European Railway Station Index“ zeigt erstmals die – aus Passagiersicht – besten Bahnhöfe Europas. In den Top 10 befinden sich fünf Bahnhöfe in Deutschland, jedoch kein österreichischer.

Das Phänomen von Flugscham greift in Europa langsam um sich, das Nachtzug-Geschäft in Österreich floriert und baut sein Angebot dementsprechend aus, und das aktuelle Klimavolksbegehren hat bereits die nötigen Unterschriften erreicht, um im Parlament behandelt zu werden. Auf Zeiten wie diese antwortet die Verbraucherschutzorganisation Consumer Choice Center mit ihrem European Railway Station Index.

Dafür wurden die 50 größten Bahnhöfe in Europa in 13 Kategorien analysiert. Entscheidend waren Kriterien wie Anschlussmöglichkeiten, Sauberkeit, Anzahl der Restaurants und Einkaufsmöglichkeiten oder die Ausschilderung. Insgesamt konnten 139 Punkte erreicht werden.

RangBahnhofStadtErreichte Punkte
1Bahnhof St. PancrasLondon116
2Zürich HauptbahnhofZürich111
3Leipzig HauptbahnhofLeipzig110
4Bahnhof Roma TerminiRom108
5München HauptbahnhofMünchen103
6Hamburg HauptbahnhofHamburg99
6Berlin HauptbahnhofBerlin99
8Mailand HauptbahnhofMailand96
9Kasaner BahnhofMoskau94
9Frankfurt HauptbahnhofFrankfurt94

Der Bahnhof St. Pancras in London erreichte demnach mit 113 Punkten  den ersten Platz. Der Hauptbahnhof Zürich folgt auf Rang zwei. Ihm folgt Leipzig. Roma Termini in Rom folgt auf Rang vier, München auf Rang fünf. Die Bahnhöfe Hamburg und Berlin erreichen 99 Punkte, Mailand liegt mit 96 Punkten auf Rang 8. Moskau und Frankfurt schließen mit jeweils 94 die Liste der 10 besten Bahnhöfe Europas ab.

Österreich schaffte es mit keinem seiner Bahnhöfe unter die Top 10. Mit 84 Punkten liegt der Wiener Hauptbahnhof auf einer Linie mit London Victoria und dem Bahnhof in Neapel.

Schlusslicht bildet der Bahnhof Magenta in Paris. Er erreichte 41 Punkte. Wien Mitte liegt mit 63 Punkten nicht unweit von ihm entfernt. “Wir hoffen, dass dieses Ranking auch Bahnhöfen hilft zu verstehen, wo noch nachgebessert werden muss. Es gibt definitiv ein Nord-Süd Gefälle bei Europas Bahnhöfen” schlussfolgern die Initiatoren in einer Aussendung.

>> Zum vollständigen Ranking

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Wohin es die Deutschen im Urlaub zieht

Die Reiselust lassen sich die Deutschen nicht so leicht verderben. Dabei lässt sich ein klarer Trend beobachten: Man verbringt den Urlaub gern in der Heimat. Während die Flugscham wächst, werden andere Arten zu reisen beliebter.

Ab auf die Reeperbahn

59 Prozent der reisenden Bundesbürger wollen 2020 ihren Urlaub innerhalb Deutschlands verbringen. Das hat eine aktuelle Umfrage des Forsa-Instituts im Auftrag des Verbraucher- und Ratgeberportals Sparwelt.de ergeben. 49 Prozent der Deutschen sind auch laut Airbnb spendabel bei Ausflügen. Die beliebtesten Touren: die „Spreefahrt“ in Berlin und die „Große Reeperbahn Tour“ durch Hamburg.

Camping in Deutschland wird beliebter

Deutschlands Campingbranche freut sich über jährlich mehr als 35 Millionen Übernachtungen. 2020 interessieren sich zudem zwölf Prozent der Bundesbürger für eine Reise mit dem Wohnmobil, 2002 waren es erst fünf Prozent.

Weitere zehn Prozent denken an einen Wohnwagenurlaub, die meisten wollen durch Deutschland touren. „Die Steigerungsraten der Campingbranche sind seit Jahren bemerkenswert und gehen weiterhin steil nach oben“, sagt Maximilian Möhrle, Geschäftsführer von camping.info.

Immer mehr Deutsche haben Lust auf Campingurlaub – vornehmlich im eigenen Land
Immer mehr Deutsche haben Lust auf Campingurlaub – vornehmlich im eigenen LandQuelle: pa/dpa/dpaweb/Fotoreport Regenbogen AG

Welcher aber ist der beliebteste Campingplatz hierzulande aus Sicht der Camper? 148.864 Campingurlauber stimmten auf dem Portal camping.info ab – und wählten einen Außenseiter. Er liegt weder an der Küste noch in den Bergen, sondern an einem künstlichen Baggersee in der Nähe von Hannover – und ist ein FKK-Platz.

Im „Naturisten Familiensport- und Naturcamp“ wird seit 1962 nackt gebadet – und in einem 64 Hektar großen Park Volleyball, Ringtennis und Fußball gespielt. Motto des Campinglatzes: Naturismus im Einklang mit der Natur erleben.

Sportbegeisterte können sich in 16 Sportarten üben, darunter Volleyball, Ringtennis und Hochsprung. Sprinten und Hechten darf man dort übrigens auch in Trainingssachen. Nur wer in den See springen will, der muss sich ausziehen.

Mehr Tierschutz auf Safaris in Südafrika

Auf Safaris in Südafrika werden gern zahme Geparden oder Löwenbabys gestreichelt. Damit dürfte es bald vorbei sein. Südafrikas Tourismusverband will von August 2020 an die Tiere besser schützen. Auf einer Schwarzen Liste stehen dann Dressurshows, Reiten auf Straußen und Elefanten, Spazierenführen von Geparden und Äffchen, aber auch das Streicheln von Löwenbabys, Zebrafohlen oder Elefantenkindern.

Wildtiere hätten von Natur aus Angst vor Menschen, erklärte die South African Tourism Services Association. Veranstalter, die sich an das freiwillige Verbot nicht halten, sollen aus dem Verband ausgeschlossen werden.

Kulinarische Events stehen hoch im Kurs

Kochen und Genießen steht bei den Deutschen hoch im Kurs. 28 Prozent geben gerne Geld für Erlebnisse aus, die etwas mit Essen zu tun haben. Auch im Urlaub. Allein in Deutschland wurden über Airbnb 139 Prozent mehr kulinarische Events gebucht als im Jahr zuvor. Zu den beliebtesten Food-Workshops zählen „Apfelstrudel“ und „Backe echte Bayerische München Brezn“.

Diese Reiseziele sind neue Favoriten

Zum ersten Mal sind die Gewinner der „Travellers Choice Awards“ für aufstrebende Reiseziele gekürt worden. Es sind solche, die aktuell gerade auf der Reise-Plattform Tripadvisor am häufigsten als Favoriten abgespeichert werden. Auf Rang eins: die russische Stadt Kaliningrad (Königsberg).

Auf Platz zwei folgt der Badeort Saranda an der albanischen Riviera. Platz drei geht an Beirut im Libanon. Auf den weiteren Plätzen: Luxor in Ägypten, Naoussa auf der griechischen Insel Paros – und auf Platz sechs landet als einziges Ziel im deutschsprachigen Raum: die Ostseeinsel Rügen.

Die Flugscham wächst

Ein großer Teil der Flugreisenden in Deutschland, nämlich 73 Prozent, haben Flugscham und ein „starkes schlechtes Gewissen“ wegen der hohen Klimabelastung. Das zeigt die Reise-Analyse 2020 der Forschungsgemeinschaft Urlaub und Reisen in Kiel.

Nur 27 Prozent teilen dieses mulmige Gefühl nicht. Die Forscher sehen einen klaren „Wertewandel“ und eine höhere Bereitschaft zu Kompensationszahlungen um des Klimas willen – um etwa einen Baum zu pflanzen.

Biometrisch boarden am Flughafen

Der Reisepass kann in der Tasche bleiben. Die Bordkarte auch. Kameras erkennen den Fluggast und lassen ihn an Bord. Als erster Standort in Deutschland wird der Flughafen München ab Sommer 2019 an 54 Lufthansa-Gates ein biometrisches Gesichtserkennungssystem starten, zunächst testweise.

Geplant ist, dass dieser einmalige biometrische „Gesichts-Scan“ auch am Check-in, bei der Gepäckaufgabe und beim Lounge-Zugang gilt. Lufthansa testet das biometrische Boarden bereits in den USA. Indes: Bei einer Grenzkontrolle wird der Passagier trotzdem noch seinen Pass vorzeigen müssen. Das biometrische Boarden ist freiwillig.

Auch junge Urlauber wandern gern

Nachhaltiges Reisen gewinnt weiter an Stellenwert: Für 43 Prozent der Deutschen sind eine umweltschonende Unterkunft und Ausstattung im Urlaub besonders wichtig. Passend dazu machen 36 Prozent der Befragten gerne Urlaub in der Natur. Die Buchungszahlen bei Airbnb zeigen: Auch junge Reisende mögen wandern – ein Plus von 164 Prozent im Vergleich zum Vorjahr bei den 20- und 30-Jährigen.

Die besten Bahnhöfe

Eigentlich wird hierzulande über die Bahn ständig geschimpft. Dabei könnte man, während man auf den verspäteten Zug am Bahnsteig wartet, sich mal genauer umschauen. Denn die Bahnhöfe in Deutschland sind laut der Verbraucherschutz-Organisation Consumer Choice Center eine Reise wert.

Deren Tester haben 50 Bahnhöfe in Europa getestet: Neben der Passagierzahl spielte vor allem die Zahl der nationalen und internationalen Verbindungen eine Rolle. Auch barrierefreier Zugang, Geschäfte und Restaurants, Sauberkeit, die Anbindung an den öffentlichen Nahverkehr, die Ausschilderung und die Zahl von Tagen, an denen gestreikt wurde, flossen in die Bewertung ein.

Fünf deutsche Bahnhöfe schaffen es in die Top Ten. Die höchste Punktzahl erreichte St. Pancras in London, der Züricher Hauptbahnhof steht auf Platz zwei. Auf Rang drei landet bereits der Leipziger Hauptbahnhof. Es folgen hinter Rom-Termini (vierter Platz) München (fünfter), die Hauptbahnhöfe Hamburg (sechster) und Berlin (siebter) sowie Frankfurt/Main auf Platz neun.

Indes: Eine deutsche Station bekam, was die Sauberkeit angeht, die schlechteste Bewertung aller getesteten 50 Bahnhöfe. Die Tester haben gerade diesen Bahnhof in Essen als besonders schmuddelig wahrgenommen.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Mutatjuk, melyek Európa legjobb pályaudvarai

Első ízben rangsorolták Európa legjobb vasúti pályaudvarait. A Consumer Choice Center felmérése szerint az öreg kontinens leginkább utasbarát pályaudvara a londoni St. Pancras lett.

A felmérés Európa leginkább utasbarát pályaudvaraira volt kíváncsi, a tízes olyan szempontok alapján állt össze, mint a létesítmény tisztasága, az átszállási lehetőségek, a peronok zsúfoltsága, valamint a kiegészítő lehetőségek mennyisége és színvonala. 

Az első helyet a londoni St. Pancras pályaudvar szerezte meg, ez az az állomás, ahonnan és ahova az Eurostar vonatok is indulnak és érkeznek. A létesítményt 2008-ban újították fel, ekkor alakították ki a területén a ma már népszerű bevásárlóközpontot, és ekkor nyitotta meg kapuit a pályaudvaron található szálloda és edzőterem is. A pályaudvar  szomszédságában található a King’s Cross Station állomás, ahol a Harry Potter-filmekből ismert 9 és ¾-es vágány található. A második helyet a zürichi főpályaudvar szerezte meg, 111 ponttal, míg a harmadik a lipcsei főpályaudvar lett. A listából kitűnik a német pályaudvarok utasbarátsága, öt város is bekerült a legjobbak közé, Lipcse mellett München, Hamburg, Berlin és Frankfurt. Olaszország két – egy római és egy milánói – pályaudvarral képviselteti magát a TOP 10-ben. 

A LEGJOBB PÁLYAUDVAROK
1. St. Pancras International (Egyesült Királyság)
2. Zürich Hauptbahnhof (Svájc)
3. Leipzig Hauptbahnhof (Németország)
4. Roma Termini (Olaszország)
5. München Hauptbahnhof (Németország)
6. Hamburg Hauptbahnhof (Németország)
7. Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Németország)
8. Milano Centrale (Olaszország)
9. Moscow Kazansky (Oroszország)
10. Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Németország)

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

These railway stations have been voted best in Europe

Many people are actively striving to travel by train rather than fly these days as a means of reducing carbon emissions. With that in mind, it may be helpful to know the railway stations that have been voted most passenger-friendly in Europe.

Child travelling by train through the German countryside.

The Consumer Choice Center ranked Europe’s 50 largest railway stations for its first annual European Railway Station Index in terms of passenger experience, ranging from how crowded platforms are and accessibility to the number of destinations and cleanliness. It also considered availability of ride-hailing services, competition of train companies, on-site restaurants and shopping, number of international destinations, quality of signage, average strike days, existence of first class lounges and convenience accessing the platforms.

Inside St Pancras International train station in Kings Cross.

Based on these criteria, it ranked St. Pancras International in London in top position. This was due to its low number of strike days, high passenger convenience and international connectivity. “The fact that it also hosts the longest champagne bar in Europe did not influence this ranking,” the report joked. Zürich and Leipzig Central Stations came in second and third place, Roma Termini in Rome came fourth and München Central Station in Munich tied for sixth place with Hamburg Central Station and Berlin Central Station. Milano Centrale in Milan came in eighth position, and Moscow Kazansky and Frankfurt Central Station tied for joint ninth position.

The central train station in Leipzig, Germany

Half of the top ten were German railway stations, thanks to their low numbers of strike days, many destinations, accessibility for passengers in wheelchairs and diverse food and shopping offerings to kill waiting time. “While we at the Consumer Choice Center stand for choice and technology neutrality, we want to use the rise of interest in long-distance train travel as an opportunity to show which railway stations in Europe are the most convenient for travellers,” the report says.

You can check out the complete European Railway Station Index here.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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